Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Parenting Road Ahead...



As parents, I can safely say that we all want the same thing...a smooth road ahead.  We want our children's lives to be filled with joy and happiness and contentment and satisfaction.  We want them to be able to pursue their dreams and enjoy their lives and engage in fulfilling relationships with friends and eventually find love and companionship.  Sounds pretty good, right?

But so often we forget that these lofty lifetime goals we hold for them are literally shaped by the minuscule, day to day, nitty-gritty time we spend with them.  And that our actions will play an important role in whether or not they have this smooth ride through life.  To use a phrase from the American founding fathers: I know these truths to be self evident...here are the parenting truths I know that will allow your child to benefit from the smooth road ahead:

Truth Number I:  In order for your children to grow up able to enjoy their lives, they need to understand the concept of being grateful for what they have and have been given.  If your children do not realize the sacrifices you make in order for them to have the lives they have, you are not doing your job.

Truth Number II:  When your children are experiencing difficulties in their lives, be it friend drama or struggles with a subject in school, pay CLOSE ATTENTION to how YOU are handling it.  If your pattern is to consistently BLAME others for the difficulties, you are teaching your child two very bad lessons...the lesson that problems are never their fault, and the lesson of lowered self esteem, because you are not allowing them to work through unpleasantness of any given situation.  This behavior can greatly reduce your child's ability to take responsibility for his/her actions and sets them on a rocky road through adolescence--when the crazy in any child's life is dialed up considerably.  There are definitely times when parents need to advocate for their children, but if you are hard pressed to think of an example of a time when your child had an issue and you DID NOT step in but rather supported your child as he/she worked through it, you are probably a parent caught up in this unhealthy dynamic. 

Truth Number III:  The rear view mirror is a very important tool to understanding your parenting style.  How you were raised greatly determines what kind of parent you will be.  You may mimic the parenting style of your parents, or you may be trying to compensate from things that you perceived as lacking from your family experiences as a child.  Often times parents that I work with realize that they are trying so hard to not be like their parents, that they swing too far to the other extreme.  For example, if you perceived your parents to be super strict and controlling authority figures, you might have a tendency to subconsciously try to be your child's friend and forge a different kind of parenting dynamic.  The problem is, being your child's friend leaves them with other difficult issues to face because children need some limits and structure.  That is how they learn to navigate the real world successfully and understand responsible behavior, self control and consequences from their actions.  Or if you felt ignored as a child, you may be trying to compensate for that by focusing too much attention on your child's life and issues.  Sometimes kid's need to work things out for themselves.  Sometimes too much parental attention can end up placing too much pressure and stress on your child.  Sometimes always making the road smooth for them robs them of the skills to deal with the bumps and turns of real life.  Confusing, huh!  Suffice it to say, it is extremely helpful to do some thinking about your own childhood and how it may be affecting the type of parent you have become. 

The road of a loving yet authoritative parent is not easy, but has been proven through loads of formal and informal research to be the most effective for putting your children on the right path towards a smooth life ahead.  Effective parents combine loving support and empathy with the structure of having real life expectations of their children.  The expectations should encompass your child's performance in school,  adherence to house rules, and performance of family chores.  Having high expectations for your children and holding them accountable for their behavior combined with supporting them with a positive and loving home environment will act as a GPS to guide them into a bright and fulfilling future.

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